Bishop Eddie L. Long presents...
New Birth Total Praise
SpirIt & Truth
As the church choir from Bishop Eddie L. Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist church, Total Praise makes a distinct impression on their debut disc from EMI Gospel, titled Spirit & Truth.You gave to me Your love
The 250-voice choir is directed by Kevin Bond, who serves as Senior Director of Worship & Arts at the church. The Gospel industry veteran also produces the album, and writes nearly all of its twelve songs.
First and foremost, Spirit & Truth is a choir album. While plenty of well-known soloists populate the recording, the choir is always up front never just an aural backdrop. Strong on diction, finely balanced between alto, soprano and tenor sections, and able to move from driving power vamps to tender balladics, Total Praise qualifies as top notch.
"Christ In Me" moves in a contemporary vein, with New Birth Total Praise tossing their verse into a millennial groove set by Bond's instrumentation and Jonathan Dubose Jr.'s guitar. Telling of our "Hope of Glory", the choir moves into a captivatingly complex arrangement by midtrack as the mass voices themselves become a staccato, percussive device.
The title track, Spirit & Truth", is one of the strongest pieces on the recording. It's one of those songs that simply sticks. The melody is simple and appealing, and the straight up arrangement makes it easy to sing along something you may find yourself doing from even the opening verse.
Kevin Bond himself takes the mic on "He Said It", weaving his vocals into the choir's, supported by Darrell Freeman's keyboard work. On "Good To Me", Darwin Hobbs tags his soulful delivery onto the song's groovy celebration.
Spirit & Truth
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Vanessa Bell Armstrong returns with a strong performance on the syncopated, traditional-influenced choir number "Suddenly", which details the instantaneous work of Jesus Christ in our lives.
Ted Winn (of Ted and Sheri) is out front on the down tempo "Thank You For Your Grace", adding his resonant tenor voice to the choir's expression of gratitude, in this 10-minute ballad set to sustained keyboards.
The church's Worship Leader, William Murphy III, distinguishes "Servant's Prayer" with his recognizable voice. A rolling and melodic piano accompaniment sets the piece in motion. Murphy's impassioned prayer fires the song:
Your son at Calvary
O Lord receive my offering Lord today
This is Your servant's prayer
One of the few songs not penned by Bond is Rick Robinson's "Anything Is Possible". A lengthy sax solo (from Ronald James) together with Bond's piano mastery begins the piece, setting up a soft, comforting jazz flow before New Birth Total Praise extols the limitless horizons with God.
With these cuts and more, Spirit & Truth marks the debut of New Birth Total Praise, and is recommended.
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Producer: Kevin Bond
album release date: May 18, 2004
reviewed by Stan North —
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